With the sun at my back โ€” Some thoughts on my 68th BIrthday

Today is my 68th birthday. Who would have thunk it? It speaks to the primary accomplishment of having continued to wake up every day.

But it presents some interesting challenges.

What to do with life at a time when your dynamic relevance is waning? How to give back to a society and culture that does not value the accreted wisdom of age? How to gracefully hand over the reins of authority and responsibility to a younger generation that deserves to take ownership yet needs the insights that your life experience offers? How to speak honestly about the world around you without sounding dyspeptic or curmudgeonly? How to let your life serve as a beacon and a marker for those who would choose to look, and how to offer guidance about those issues that are part of the common trajectory of life for us all?

These, and a host of other issues, rise up as I sit here watching the sun rise and listening to the birdsong in our new home here in Oregon.

We are all on a common course through life, though the specifics may vary. The old need the insights of the young; the young need the counsel of the old. We need to help each other, listen to each other, honor each other.

It seems to me, when all is said and done, that kindness is the most important virtue. It creates the best moments, fosters the best memories, crafts the strongest bonds. And it is the motive force of service, which should be the primary task and goal of all of us as we travel through life.

I’m lucky to be here. I’m blessed to have the life I have been given. I have stumbled, made mistakes, and bumped into some of life’s sharp corners as I’ve wandered through the fog. But I awake each day astonished and mystified by the incredible richness of life, and continue to do what I can with such lights as have been given me.

I thank all of you who have been in my life in some capacity. It has been a wonderful journey and I look forward to where it might yet take me. To the best of our knowledge, we pass this way but once, and those with whom we share life’s time are a gift to be cherished. Friendship is all, and kindness is its handmaiden.

22 comments

  1. Kerry says:

    A brightly blessed birthday to you, kind friend!

  2. Pamela Letterman says:

    Happy birthday, Kent Nerburn. The best to you in Oregon, a curiously beautiful place. I grew up in Montana, and always loved the driive to Portland to visit family: the Rockies, Coeur d’Alene, the eastern prairie, then the Columbia River, Multnomah Falls, and, finally, Portland, up Burnside, to the forested southwest corner neighborhood, where it felt small townish, and lush; where it was green in the winter.
    You have left a legacy to me in your three novels about encounters with Dan and his life. I cherish that greatly and continue to hold you in high esteem as you journey. The best to you and yours, Kent.

  3. Pat says:

    Happy birthday! Thank you for your heartfelt comments and perspective. We are cohorts..I have been struggling of late and your words helped my prespective.

    Thank you again!

  4. Janie Peak says:

    Happy birthday! The family and I are en route to Bemidji. So sorry we won’t see and yours. Take care, and enjoy!

    Your “shirt-tail” cousin,
    Janie

  5. Marc Baisden says:

    Happy Birthday. Now that you are an ELDER, I look forward for more of the Wisdom you share. I look forwarded to reading your works and have shared the wisdom and your books with others. As a psychologist I use many of your insights in treatment which have had a great impact in my client’s lives. I enjoy to give your books as gifts. Thank you for your willingness to share with us and the world.

    Marc Baisden

  6. Patt Rall says:

    first of all–happy birthday and many more! glad to know that you have found a good place to settle—you are so gifted to realize that kindness is primary in our lives–and you are a shining example. Anxious to get new edition of “Letters.” Best to you and yours!

  7. Todd Kent says:

    Cheers…to Kindness! That you have known and that you have sown. Happy Birthday and godspeed.
    ~TKent

  8. Eric H. Read says:

    Happy Birthday, Kent. Where you are now, I found myself 5 years ago. I sincerely hope that both of us continue to wake up many more times. I envy you your new homestead. I have been in love with Oregon for years, especially the coast. Walking barefoot on the sands and listening to the surf is soothing to the soul. There is just something about the ocean that creates tranquility and peacefulness. Enjoy your day!

  9. tara hands says:

    My 109 yr. friend said and passed out a flyer stating attitude is everything.
    I’d like your next or the next book to be about “attitude”. 68 seems young
    to me as I landed at 80 this year. I rejoice that I have kept voluntary service in action, exercis daily, eat healthy, saved some money, and maintained my curiosity. Tara,

  10. Meredith says:

    Kent,
    it is so nice to be able to look back on a rich and varied life, still eager to learn and share. May your many kindnesses be returned aplenty to you!
    Cheers each day! Meredith

  11. Barb says:

    A very happy and blessed birthday to you. The world continues to be blessed with your presence, your insights, your writing. I am so very grateful to be a fan.

  12. Nancy Schupp says:

    Belated Happy Birthday with many more to come. As mine will be next month 79 have found a new life in caring for others and in one week gave out 6 copies of your book Make Me an Instrument of Tour Peace. Things were happening to friends and others and find this book to give comfort and JOY. I also find that I am an elder especially to the 40 and 50 year olds. The word for me this year has been JOY. Also found INKKAS sneakers make me a cool elder and at same time help plant trees in Amazon rain forest. You are now in the land with a person who is very dear to my heart and have asked to do my celebration of life service when I walk down the Holy Road.
    Love, Peace. Joy and Blessings
    Nancy aka RIbluebird

  13. Janet LIm says:

    Dear Kent

    Happy birthday, a little late. You have touched my life and many many others I am sure with your thoughts and insights and beautiful writing. I will thank God today for the gift of you who have gifted so many. If you are any where in Asia, Singapore will be a good stop!!!
    janet

  14. mary black says:

    I will be 68 in two weeks. It is indeed interesting to watch the changes as we grow through life. I wake up everyday grateful and inspired. May it remain so until the last day.

  15. David Winchester says:

    I just finished your book titled, “The Girl Who Sang To The Buffalo”. Many thanks to you for writing it. I will be buying some more of your books as well. It took me a week to read it, I just couldn’t put it down. Happy Birthday, Mr. Nerburn!

  16. Greetings Kent,

    What wonderfully inspiring thoughts that you have shared with us on your birthday. I met a friend of yours this evening at the grocery store named Judy Reinehr who told me about your experiences living amongst Native Americans in the Bemidji area as well as the Lakota area in North Dakota where I grew up. I look forward to reading Neither Wold nor Dog and much more of your writing. Judy will be fascinated to hear that you have moved to Oregon.

    Many blessings for you ahead.

    In admiration,
    Witney Bjerke

  17. Bruno Goffin says:

    Dearest Brother Nerburn,

    Congratulations with your 68 years of wisdom.
    Next month, sept 2014, I will reach 71.
    In a few words I want to describe how important Neither Wolf nor Dog and the Wolf at Twilight became and still are in my life.

    Living in South Africa I was initiated in june 2006 as a New Warrior during a NWTA of the ManKindProject. For the first time in my life I took part in Lakota rituals, in circles of men and in a sweat lodge ceremony and it changed my life. It was also for the first time that I pronounced the formula “all my relations” when entering the sweat lodge. I admit I did not fully understand what it meant.

    Back in Spain I was invited to take part in a Spanish speaking Circulo de Hombres/circle of men. We sit in a circle with a fire in the middle and pass around the sacred tobacco. Only the brother holding the sacred tobacco speaks, if he wants to say something. Passing the tobacco from one hand to another, the brothers in the circle said something I did not understand. I asked what it meant and it was: Metakuye Oyas in. Brother Jose Flecha, who had invited me in the circle, is a hombre de medicina/medicine man in El Camino Rojo, the Good Red Road, following the teachings of Aurelio Diaz Tekkanpali. Since then and at least once a month I take part in a Temazcal/sweat lodge ceremony.
    But also in 2006 I discovered your book Neither Wolf nor Dog in a bookshop in Johannesburg. It was what other people call “a coincidence”, while I believe it was the Great Spirit who guided me to the book. For decades I have been working as a dog listener and my “mistake” was to assume that you had written a book about wolfs and dogs. Today I have read NWND seven times and Wolf at Twilight four times. Each time I discover new wisdom and insights.

    Therefore I want to thank you very much for your books, your guidance, your wisdom and for being the men you are.

    I am sending you my congratulations, my brotherly love and my blessings as an elder.

    Bruno Black Dog in Spain.

  18. knerburn says:

    Thank you, Bruno, for your note. It was a welcome touch today. I hope you will pick up The Girl who Sang to the Buffalo, which is the third in the trilogy. I think you will find it meaningful. Again, my thanks, and all my best.

    Kent

  19. Shawn Gilbert says:

    Kent, wishing you another year of deep insight and the joy it brings to you and your readers. Your belief about kindness as a primary virtue reminded this 74-year-old of a noteworthy moment in my own life. Many years ago, I was attending a parent-teacher conference and the teacher mentioned to me that my child was “kind.” In a flash, I realized that a teacher had now said exactly that about each one of my five children, and I recognized that absolutely nothing I had or would do as a parent could ever be more important than providing a growing ground for kindness. These children have grown to maturity in wildly different ways, some as I might have designed could I have written the script and others so far afield of my wildest imagination that I couldn’t have influenced them in any way. But they each, they all, are kind. Thank you for affirming that value.

  20. Bruno Goffin says:

    Dear brother,

    Yes indeed, I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of The Girl who Sang to the Buffalo.

    Love and blessings.

    Bruno Goffin in Spain

  21. knerburn says:

    I hope you have ordered it already, my friend. It should be available from my sisters at Wolfnordog.com. Thanks for your interest.

  22. Shelley says:

    I’m at the same point in my life as you are now…and have struggled with all the same thoughts and questions… just not as ‘eloquently put’ as you have said here ๐Ÿ™‚
    Dan taught you what your ‘value’ is now…. believe in that…. and share it with those who appreciate your wisdom and experiences.. there are many of us here who can learn from you…and see things differently ‘because of your experiences you’ve shared with us’…..
    and you say we only pass through here -but once? ๐Ÿ™‚ Well I would have thought ‘Zi’ would have made you think twice about that ๐Ÿ™‚
    old souls….. where ‘do’ they come from? we have to wonder… don’t we…

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